Over the past two decades, esteemed fight face Mick Hennessy navigated stars such as Carl Froch, Junior Witter, Darren Barker, Howard Eastman and the Fury cousins (Tyson and Hughie) through the fistic jungle and on to international acclaim. Now the innovative promoter’s son Michael Junior is poised to enrich the family’s fighting legacy…between the ropes!
The 19 year old 6ft 1in middleweight is an amateur centurion who served a quality ring apprenticeship on both sides of the Irish Sea and as a spar hand within several of the capital’s most revered pro academies.
Now the angel-faced action man intends utilising dad’s influence to take the outside lane to the top in the paid sphere.
While licences and medicals are due to be issued, the intention is to unleash Michael into the profession on his dad’s show at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse on May 25th headlined by Hughie Fury’s return to the ring against Chris Norrard, exclusively live on Channel 5.
‘I’ve got a very exciting, TV friendly style. I love to fight and, in future, when I need to, the public will enjoy seeing me go toe-to-toe. Once people see me in action they’ll begin to realise I’ve served a very hard apprenticeship and I belong at this level.” quips Junior in a soft tone that belies the spite and aggression for which he is lauded once his boxing gloves are laced.
The Noble Art has been a fundamental factor in Michael Jr’s existence since before he could recite his alphabet.
‘Boxing’s my life,’ states bright boy Michael, who attained five A Stars and five A grades at GCSE level whilst also competing at the highest level of amateur boxing.
‘I’ve been attending my dad’s shows since I was as young as four or five. Dad’s biggest stars from fighters, to trainers to managers and promoters, were always around. During my teens, Dad paid me to work part-time in his office, where I got a behind the scenes look of how the game really works! I’ve been surrounded by the fight game my whole life.
‘My Dad never wanted me to box but it was inevitable. I started badgering him as young as six or seven but, initially, he always told me: ‘No’. He said if I still wanted to do it when I was 11, he’d take me to the gym and we shook hands on the deal.
‘True to his word, on my 11th birthday, I was taken to the local Sevenoaks ABC gym and also when in Ireland the St. Monica’s club in Newry (where Michael remained for the whole of his amateur career under Owen Murphy). I had my first bout just two months later and was fast tracked. I’d attend the gym on Monday and Wednesdays, then practise on the pads at home with Dad, every other night.’
Over time, the teen terror – who subsequently joined Body Shots Academy later on as his English club, but was coached from the off by his father – evolved into one of the most seasoned starlets on the unpaid circuit, scouring the seas in search of the trials and tests that could accelerate his development.
‘I had well over 100 amateur bouts but at least 60% were in Ireland where my dad’s family are from. I must have won well over three quarters,’ recalls the eldest of Hennessy Senior’s three children.
‘As an amateur, I won multiple Box Cups, and multiple London, Ulster, Antrim and Nine Counties titles. Having got to the semi-finals and finals of a few different prestigious national tournaments, I believe that if there was fair play involved, I would also have national titles on my record.
‘But, truthfully, as an amateur, it was always just about learning and gathering experience to succeed later in the pros.’
Encased in a boxing bubble from birth was always going to bring advantages but Papa Mick, himself a useful amateur during his youth around the Old Kent Road, disclosed that, from his formative years in the sport, young Michael rejected any notion of being ‘silver spooned’ through the sport.
‘As Michael was lying in bed after his third win, aged 11, I complemented him on a brilliant performance. As I went to leave the room, he said with this huge smile ‘Dad, 3 and 0!’ recalls Mick the promoter turned teacher.
‘I returned to his bedside and told him: ‘Son, in amateur boxing, there’ll be a lot of heartbreak; politics and bad decisions. Sure, I can keep you on home shows, where you won’t fight as much and we can go on a long unbeaten run or I can take you on the road where sometimes you’ll lose, other times you’ll get shafted but you’ll certainly learn to fight. What’s it to be?’ Without blinking, he replied: ‘The road, dad!’
‘Consequently, Michael has been boxing at an elite level since the beginning. He’s been very competitive his whole career against National, Commonwealth, European and World medalists, and also holds some notable wins over some of them.
‘For the pros, he’ll definitely need to tighten his defence, mind. He’s very, very aggressive if left to his own devices but I intend for Michael to have a long and successful career.’
Despite his tender years, slender frame and cherubic features, Hennessy Jr is adamant that he possesses the hardware required to flourish within The Hardest Game.
‘Most of the other amateurs boxed pretty much the same, darting in and out, picking points but, from day dot, I had a pro style that distinguished me, set me apart,’ states Michael who now studies Business and Property Development through open study.
‘I’ve been moving around with pros and doing the long rounds, from a young age. I won’t need to make many adjustments for the pros.
‘Despite being tall and slim, I like to work inside, I love the body shots and working up close. Lee Wilkins, trainer and owner of Body Shots gym nicknamed me ‘Miguel Hernandez’ at 14 due to my initials and because I fought like a Mexican. It caught on with all the lads and the nickname Miguel seems to have stuck.’
And this most engaging of young men is intent on making quite a splash when he debuts sans singlet and with the free-to-air Channel Five cameras rolling, in Manchester on Saturday week.
‘I’m not at all nervous about this; just relaxed and excited,’ concludes Michael.
‘I’m going straight into six-threes. Four-threes would be too similar to an amateur fight. We’re unsure on the opponent at the moment,”
‘But whoever it is, I’m looking to put on a spectacular performance and, hopefully get, a kayo victory. It’s going to be the start of an epic journey to the top!
You can follow Michael’s journey on social media: @mhennessyjr
Tickets priced at £40 & £70 are available from http://vipboxing.tv/shop/vip-tickets/hughie-fury-saturday-25th-may-victoria-warehouse/ and 01942 874 241
UPDATE: Michael Hennessy Jr outpointed Adam Grabiec 60-66 in his pro debut.